Posts Tagged ‘relational lives’

Technology and Relationships

November 8, 2019

This is the seventh post in the book by doreen dodgen-magee titled “DEVICED: Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World. The title of this post is identical to the title of a chapter in the book. The first relationship to be discussed is the relationship with oneself. Technology has a profound effect on how we relate to ourselves. If we have been able to develop a stable internal locus of control alongside our tech engagement, then we will be able to build an authentic, deep relationship with others. However, if the prevailing nature of technology’s impact on our relationship with ourselves has been to make us into self-promoting, self-centric, lacking in empathy, limited in communication skills, and sans an accompanying sense of self-knowing awareness of our limitations as well as our strengths, then our relationship with others will be built on a fragile foundation. We need to keep this foundational dynamic in mind as we discuss our relationships with others.

Given the amount of time we spend with screens, it seems plausible to posit that some of our most meaningful relationships exist with our devices (if meaningfulness is, at least in part, determined by investment of time and resources). Over time we develop response patterns to devices that look much like our response patterns to humans. Research has show that interaction with our devices can stimulate the release of oxytocin, initiating feelings similar to love. Oxytocin is considered the “cuddle hormone.” It is released when a new mother fazes at her nursing baby. Our physiological responses to devices suggest an emotional connection to them not unlike what we experience as physiological responses to connection between humans.

There is a distinction that needs to be made between our social lives and our relational lives. The former refers to the relative amount of time we spend in companionable connection with others, whereas the latter refers to the part of our being we invest in knowing others and being known by them. To be healthy and reliable, these relational forms of knowing need to be predicated on communication that is honest and authentic, happens in a variety of contexts, and occurs over time. Consider what you believe to be the differences and similarities between social networks and relational connections.
*Track the number of responses to social media posts you make in a day and compare that to the number of texts of phone calls you make.
*Consider who you might call if you had an amazing piece of news to share or if you needed help in an emergency.
*Let the difference between the types of connections and relationships you enjoy sink in, and determine where you might make some investments to deepen those that have real potential.

The author writes, “If our relationship with our own self and the authenticity of communication regarding that self is the foundation upon which our relationships are built, then the nature and quality of our communication creates that building blocks of our relationships with others. Research conducted with pairs of close friends found that communication via instant messaging results in significantly lower levels of bonding than face-to-face communication, video chatting, and audio chatting. If this is true for existing close friends, how might it impact the many relationships begun and maintained solely through typed digital messages?”

“Disinhibition” is one of the potential issues with the digital world that diminishes our communication skills. As we spend less time practicing the art of communication, with its subtleties of give and take, we are shifting toward disinhibition, a lack of restraint that manifests in impulsivity, poor risk assessment, and a disregard for social conventions. This shift is most apparent in typed communiques. In his article “online disinhibition effect,” Rider University communications professor John Suler describes how digital communication can train us to be less “other aware.” He writes: “In text communication such as email, chat, blogs, and instant messaging, others may know a great deal about who you are. However, they still can’t see or hear you—and you can’t see or hear them. Even with everyone’s identity visible, the opportunity to be physically invisible amplifies the ‘disinhibition effect.’”

Research evaluated whether people preferred to answer questions posed by humans or by “embodied conversational agents” (ECAs), which are virtual people. The results revealed that the research participants preferred speaking with ECAs if the answers might be of a highly sensitive nature or likely to involve negative self-admissions. If the answers were considered less sensitive or more likely to include positive self-admissions, the participants preferred human interviewers. Research participants reportedly appreciated the lack of judgment an ECA would afford.

The need to stand out alongside the constant comparison and competition for attention in our socially networked spaces has the power to subtly impact the way we think about ourselves and others. Excessive exposure to a world with constant judgment, evaluation, commentary, and comparison can make any of us lean toward relationally aggressive ways of encountering others and ourselves.

The author encourages the reader to align one’s social networks with our embodied, relational ones.
*Do an inventory of our social networks (whether they are via video games, on platforms like Facebook, etc.)
*Consider whether we are engaging with people on our social networks who are there only for you to show off to, or others who lead you to feel “less than.”
*Assess the newsletters and online subscriptions you receive.
Then carefully consider who and what are positive influences in our lives that we want to continue connecting with, and who and what might be best to part ways with. This need not be a harsh rejection session but rather a realignment of sorts,

More ideas for creating healthier relationships off-and online

TAKE A TEN-MINUTE PAUSE BEFORE POSTING OR RESPONDING TO POTENTIALLY PROVOCATIVE INFORMATION.

PRACTICE NONJUDGMENTAL AWARENESS AND RESPONSIVENESS
Consider living by the motto, “Be kind to everyone, for theirs is a difficult journey.” See how leading with empathy and openheartedness changes the tendency toward judgment and categorization.

PICK UP THE PHONE OR INITIATE A VIDEO CHAT

LEAVE YOUR PHONE IN THE CAR WHEN MEETING WITH OTHERS, AND DON’T WEAR EARBUDS WHEN OTHERS ARE PRESENT (AT LEAST SOME OF THE TIME).

WAIT IN LINE, AT A MEETING, OR ELSEWHERE WITHOUT INTERACTING WITH YOUR PHONE.

PRACTICE EYE CONTACT.

HANDWRITE A LETTER OR NOTE.

PRACTICE FINDING THE GOOD IN OTHERS, AND PERIODICALLY AFFIRM SOMEONE IN PERSON.